He plunged his rigid shaft directly into her moist centre, like a mighty sword of faith thrust into the heart of an unbeliever…

‘We’re nearly out of toilet paper. Is there any more?’ Jamie came into the kitchen, still in his pyjamas, yawning, and scratching at his belly in a half-hearted manner.

‘Check in the cabinet under the sink.’ He plunged his rigid shaft…

‘I already did.’

Sania turned around and frowned. ‘Then why ask? You’ll have to go to the shop.’

He plunged his…

He walked towards her, full of bedhead and early morning breath, his stubble more salt than pepper these days, and she tried not to wince as he leaned forward and kissed her cheek, nearly knocking her coffee onto her laptop and papers. She pushed her cup to one side and straightened the papers. ‘It’s your turn to drive the girls to school.’

‘I know.’

‘I’m just reminding you, because in the past you’ve made them late.’

‘It was only once, Sania. I wish you would let it go.’ He moved to the counter and poured himself a cup of coffee, his back turned.

‘It’s just… I need to finish this story before the girls get home this afternoon.’

‘All right. I’ll jump in the shower.’

She let him go. She was hard on him these days, she knew. But it was difficult. She needed the time to focus, and he never seemed to understand that, or understand what a burden it was to be the only breadwinner in the family.

Once the girls were up, it would be impossible to write. There would be breakfast and squabbles and missing homework and more squabbles and a lost PE kit and even more squabbles about whose turn it was to feed the hamster… And Jamie would do what Jamie always did. He’d disappear into himself.

He rested his face in the cleft between her beautiful twin towers…

Hmm… perhaps not.

She feasted on him like he was iftar…

The screaming began and she slammed her laptop shut, looking behind her. Naila had a clump of Mona’s hair in her fist, while the younger girl was the one screaming as they barrelled down the stairs like attached marionettes.

‘Stop it!’

‘I’m not doing anything.’

‘Maammaa, she’s hurting me!’

‘She started it! She took my phone and read all my texts. She has no respect for my privacy. And it’s your fault, for not letting me put a password on my phone!’

‘Let go of your sister’s hair, Naila,’ Sania said quietly. ‘Now, please.’

With a push and a lurch, Mona was free. She glared daggers at Naila. ‘I didn’t look at your phone. You’re always accusing me, when you’re the one who goes through my stuff all the time. Mama, tell her!’

But Naila had moved on. She was biting into an apple now, while simultaneously opening the fridge door and hunting around for her packed lunch. ‘Oh, please,’ she said between chews. ‘There’s absolutely nothing about your life that interests me.’

The first one had taken less than an hour to write, but it seemed to get progressively harder. Perhaps because now there was real money at stake, or perhaps she had simply run out of euphemisms.”

Sania zoned out the noise. She got up to prepare breakfast… Well, for Mona and Jamie at least. Only yoghurt for Naila. When Sania had gone to Sainsbury’s yesterday they hadn’t had the Fruit Corner ones her daughter liked, so it had to be pre-blended strawberry, though of course Naila would baulk at that.

She drew a long breath. These days, she spent half the mornings trying to strengthen herself against her daughter’s eye-rolls. She looked at Naila’s waif-like figure. She was worried that the girl was developing body issues, she ate so little…

The butter sizzled in the pan and she focused on the task at hand. Scrambled eggs for Mona, who was now complaining about not having a phone of her own. The kids ate, and Jamie came down looking almost human in his smart-casual attire, his hair still glistening from the shower.

This time, when he kissed her, she kissed him back. She got a juicy hug from Mona, a breezy ‘See ya!’ from Naila – the phrase was loaded with the expected amount of ennui – and then, just like that, it was over.

The kitchen was silent. Mona had forgotten her jumper. Naila had left a half-eaten yoghurt on the counter, tilted and oozing strawberry. Neither had put their plates in the dishwasher. Sania fought the urge to tidy up, and sat down once more at the laptop.

Two Lovers by Reza Abbasi (Persia, 1630). Wikimedia Commons

He plunged his rigid shaft directly into her moist centre… No, she had tried that line already.

There was a jihad going on in his pants, and when she ripped off her burqa, he saw that she was worth giving up his seventy-two virgins for... Nope, that wasn’t going to work either.

She leaned back and sighed. It should be easier than this by now. This was her seventeenth story, bugger it. The first one had taken less than an hour to write, but it seemed to get progressively harder. Perhaps because now there was real money at stake, or perhaps she had simply run out of euphemisms. She poured herself another coffee.

She cupped her hands around the mug, enjoying its warmth. That first story had been a piss-take, which was probably why it had been so easy, she decided. Her friend Becky had come across the website, Boneland.net: The World’s Number One Halal Erotica. It was mostly made up of fan fiction about the TV show Homeland: a Fifty Shades of Terrorism type of thing. One drunken night at a wine bar they had dared each other to submit stories under pseudonyms. When Sania’s was actually accepted, neither of them could get over it. For weeks they had giggled about the accolade, until Sania received a payment of £350. Payment was based on the number of clicks her story received, and she had thousands. Someone had actually paid her to write a story about Abu Broudieh, the double agent with his hard, male heat and his engorged flesh.

No one was more stunned than she was when the story topped the website’s rankings. It had been a joke, for God’s sake! And then one of the editors of Boneland contacted her to ask if she could provide any more submissions. She hated her freelance copywriting job, and thought, Why not?

Typical of Jamie. Always so politically correct. When she had introduced him to her parents, he arrived dressed in a shalwar kameez, all eager to acknowledge his white privilege and to discuss the best way to cook haleem.”

She decided to give it a go. A little extra pocket money on the side, on top of what she was already earning. Jamie had not been happy.

‘It’s… Well, it’s not that I mind the erotica, darling. It’s just… Muslim erotica?’

‘What about it?’

‘It’s racist, my love. All these stories about terrorists bonking women in hijabs and making them submit to their every whim. It’s… Well, I think it verges on hate speech, actually. It’s misogynistic too.’

This was so typical of Jamie. Always so politically correct. When she had introduced him to her parents, he arrived dressed in a shalwar kameez, all eager to acknowledge his white privilege and to discuss the best way to cook haleem, even though her father was a bank manager and her mother an accountant who much preferred a little salad over anything too heavy. ‘No more so than Fifty Shades,’ she shot back. ‘It’s kinky, a fetish. Like men who wear nappies and want to be spanked.’

‘Do you know any such men?’

‘No. At least, I don’t think so.’

‘Would you like it if I wore a nappy to bed?’

‘Don’t be gross.’

‘Well, there you go then.’

But that had been three months ago. Two weeks later, Jamie had lost his teaching job, and her freelancing money could only stretch so far. He picked up bits and pieces of tutoring, but schools were having budget crises, and nobody seemed to care about the Plantagenets quite as much as he did. The world had moved on, and yet Jamie seemed to be from another age. All his desperate attempts to embrace her culture only reminded her that he was so English.

His breath was heavy against her mouth. ‘I’m going to explode inside you like a suicide bomber,’ he whispered…

When Jamie lost his job, she wrote a second story, about a Mata Hari-type female spy who infiltrated ISIS and got caught, finding herself forced into a group orgy. It was one of her most popular – she made £1200 off it. Since then, she had never looked back.

‘Just think about it, darling, that’s all I’m saying. What kind of man wants to read stuff like this? By the way, have you seen my glasses? I’m sure I left them in the bedroom, but I can’t find them. I bet Mona’s hidden them again. I really wish she would stop being so silly. We have to start thinking about her birthday, by the way. Any idea of what she wants?’

‘Well, maybe they’re women…’

‘What?’

‘The readership. Maybe they’re women.’

‘I highly doubt it.’

‘Well, either way, stop being such a prude.’

Eventually, he gave in and just ignored her new source of income. When Mona turned out to have dyslexia, it was Her Holy Gyrations that paid for extra tuition to help her catch up with the rest of the class. When Naila wanted to go on a school skiing trip, and when Jamie himself needed to see a professional CV consultant, it was the stories, always the stories, that came through for them.

Sania didn’t put much effort into her prose, but it turned out she had a knack for writing Islamic terror erotica. She’d accidentally become the queen of a whole new subset of porn, and she could churn the stories out almost as fast as her readers devoured them.

Her readers… When she thought about them, she would picture her overweight cousin Javaid, who worked at the EE store on the Edgware Road and ate McDonald’s for lunch every day. He consumed porn like it was air, all the while making sick comments about women in miniskirts. Javaid’s mother was looking for a pious girl to marry him off to, and he himself had announced that she had to be a virgin who knew how to cook. It would help if she were a doctor or a nurse, he added, so that she could look after his parents in their old age. And of course, she had to be from Pakistan, because otherwise she wouldn’t understand his culture.

Sania liked to think she was making money off idiots like him.

But today the story just wasn’t coming to her. A walk might be a good idea. She could buy some loo roll and clear her head at the same time. Plus, she had to get some craft paper for Mona’s map of the world project, and some macaroni which, for unfathomable reasons, was going to represent the Himalayas.

An email pinged from her Gmail account, and she opened it immediately, curious. It was from one of the editors of Boneland, she knew, because they were the only ones who had her personal address.”

Twenty minutes later, she found herself embracing the smells and sights of Kilburn High Road, a canvas shopping bag on her shoulder. She passed the halal butchers and gazed briefly into the window of the Primark store, wondering if it was worth buying another pair of trainers – the last ones had disintegrated during their summer holiday in France. Better to buy a pair that would last, she decided, and moved on. She stopped at the fruit stall, where they were still selling cardboard boxes of mangoes – and that made her think about Jamie.

She’d first met Jamie at her friend Becky’s twenty-third birthday party, almost a quarter of a century ago. He had a teaching assistant job, working at a secondary school in Cricklewood, and she had just graduated with an English degree which turned out to be utterly useless. They’d bonded over their love of Nirvana and Doc Martens, and shared hatred of boybands and the Macarena. The next day he rang Sania, who was staying with Becky, and asked if she fancied a walk. They had talked and walked the length and breadth of north London. She’d introduced him to Pakistani mangoes, and he was so delighted by them that he bought a crate a week for the entire season.

Dating white guys had never been her thing, but Jamie was smart, and funny, and didn’t seem to care how many men she might or might not have slept with. After he entered her life, she began to feel it was no longer possible for her to continue living with her parents in Croydon, surrounded by judgemental aunties and arrogant boys… And girls who married too young and gave up their careers.

Erotic scene from the Indian School (Persia, 17th century)

Jamie was steady and calm, and his green eyes crinkled at the edges when he smiled. He was the best kind of nerd, the sort of person who would open doors for strangers and spend his holidays exploring old castles. It didn’t matter to him whether her parents were active in the community, or whether she said her prayers. It didn’t matter that she drank, or smoked, or intended to live off Heinz Baked Beans for the rest of her life instead of learning how to cook. He made her laugh, all the time, and he let her laugh at him too, when he dragged her to some particularly damp and dusty ruin and lectured her about Richard I.

There was a chill to the air. She walked home laden with mangoes, macaroni, toilet paper and the right kind of yoghurt for Naila. She made her way into the kitchen and dumped everything on the table. Jamie had come and gone, it seemed, because the kitchen had been cleaned and the whole house was gleaming. On the counter was a roll of toilet paper. And in the middle of the roll, a single red rose.

She smiled, and went back to her story.

She soared over the crest in a frenzy of simultaneous explosions, those within her, and those outside, where the ISIS fighters had gathered.

An email pinged from her Gmail account, and she opened it immediately, curious. It was from one of the editors of Boneland, she knew, because they were the only ones who had her personal address. They knew her surname and bank details, of course, but everything else was anonymized. Her moniker, Desigirl73, was not in any way original, but that’s what she liked about it.

Hi Desigirl73!
Thank you for all your submissions so far. We’ve recently added new functionality to the site, as well as raising our subscription fee. Readers are now able to like and comment on stories, and we’ve had a lot of feedback already. Could we talk? My details are below, if you have time to call me.
Sincerely,
Andrew Marsh

Sania sat back. She had never had a conversation with anyone from the site before; she didn’t even know where it was headquartered. Andrew had provided a US number. She rang it before she could change her mind.

‘This is Andrew,’ said the voice, in lieu of a hello.

‘Oh. Hi. This is San… er… you know me as Desigirl73, I guess?’

‘Oh, hey!’ His tone brightened. ‘It’s so nice to hear from you. How are you today?’

She never knew how to deal with over-enthusiastic Americans, and this one had a Midwestern inflection to boot. It struck her just then that she knew very little about Boneland.

‘I am well, thank you. And yourself?’

‘Oh, I’m great. Just great! Thanks for calling me back. As I said in my email, we’ve made some upgrades to the site…’

‘Yes?’

‘And I gotta tell you, our readers are just lovin’ your stories.’

That was good, she thought. ‘That’s good.’

‘Uh huh. But the thing is, they’d like some more diversity.’

‘Diversity? In what way?’

‘Well… all your characters are Mozlem, right?’

‘Yes. Erm, isn’t that the whole point?’ Why was a guy named Andrew, who couldn’t say the word Muslim properly, running a website for Muslim erotica? She started a Google search, looking up ‘Boneland and Andrew Marsh’.

He chuckled. ‘Yeah, I totally get where you’re coming from. But our readers want to feel like they’re invested, you know? So the characters need to represent them, a little bit.’

‘I see.’ It was a fair point. So many of her characters were spies or terrorists, which clearly the readership wasn’t. ‘And how do I do that, exactly?’

‘Can you throw in some American GIs? I mean, the girls have to be Mozlems, of course. But the guys, they could be saving ’em from wherever they’re from, and the girls could be showing ’em how grateful they are. Like in Iraq after Saddam, but more current. What do you think? We’re confident the click rate will go up; you’ll make a lotta cash, and our readers will be happy. I don’t know if you’ve seen our new competitor EroticExotic, but they’ve really captured the horny hijab-girl market, and that’s a wake-up call for us, to be honest with you.’

An image had appeared on her screen from her search. ‘Boneland and Andrew Marsh’. There he was, wearing jeans and a check shirt – lean, sandy-haired, handsome, and grinning with his arms crossed over his chest. On his head he wore a baseball cap which said MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN.

She took a moment to think about what she should say, but found she hadn’t any words. ‘I’ll certainly consider that, thanks,’ she said and hung up the phone.

And then she called Jamie.

‘So it turns out that men wearing nappies was the least of the crazy,’ she said.

‘Is this your way of telling me I was right?’

‘You’re never right, you should know that by now. But yes.’

‘Well,’ he exhaled. ‘It sounds like we’re going to be broke again tomorrow. Shall we celebrate with a takeaway tonight? What do you fancy?’

‘Chinese.’

‘Okay. But just not that spicy Sichuan place you like so much. You know it goes right through me, darling. I mean, I understand how important chillies are in your culture, but we only have the one bathroom and all. Maybe they could put the chillies on the side…’

‘Jamie?’

‘Yes, love?’

‘Just come home.’

‘Already here, darling,’ he said, as she heard the latch on the front door turn.

From the collection A Match Made in Heaven (Hope Road, £10.99)


Shaista Sadick
is an author of short stories, an amateur comedian, a sometimes calligrapher, and a global mutt. She has spent time in Karachi, Lahore, London and Singapore and now lives in Newcastle. She has two dogs and two cats, one husband and three kids. With whatever time she has left, she is a video-game scriptwriter. The job isn’t nearly as glamorous as it sounds, but it pays the bills and means she’s slaughtered many a demon king in her time.

A Match Made in Heaven: British Muslim Women Write About Love and Desire, edited by Claire Chambers, Nafhesa Ali and Richard Phillips, is published in paperback and eBook by Hope Road.
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